Welcome to the Maccabiah

President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Sports Minister Limor Livnat reflect on the meaning of the Maccabiah, as the 19th games begin.

July 16, 2013 14:59
3 minute read.
Shimon Peres and Binyamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu peres combo 370. (photo credit: GPO)

I welcome the Maccabiah Games, one of the world’s largest sporting events, to Israel once again. The games were the dream of a 15-year-old boy called Yosef Yekutieli. Today, we celebrate 80 years of Maccabiah games and they will be the biggest and most competitive games yet.

The story of the Maccabiah mirrors the story of the State of Israel – a reality that far exceeded the dreams of the founders. The Maccabiah is a symbol of our nation and of our people. We may be small in size but we are great in spirit. The Maccabiah exemplifies the best of the Jewish people; a passion, a willingness to work hard and to compete but more than anything else a brotherhood.

As we run, jump, swim and compete against one another we do it knowing that we are all one people. While for the duration of the games we may compete as nations, for eternity we will be united in our peoplehood.

To the athletes I say our country loves you. You should feel at home here because Israel will always be your home. The Maccabiah slogan of “Sound Jewish Minds in Healthy Jewish Bodies” was the ethos on which this country was built, combining the strength of the mind with the strength of the body.

Israel is a story of human achievement and you are now part of that story.
Shimon Peres, President of Israel

Dear Friends,
I welcome you to the opening of the 19th Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem.

In the 1930s, when the idea of a Jewish sporting event began to take shape, it was a revolutionary idea. Since the first Maccabiah in 1932, the event has become a strong tradition among world Jewry.

The Maccabiah Games are a competitive sporting event – yet there is so much more to them.

The Maccabiah is a unique Jewish and Zionist assembly, bringing thousands of Jewish athletes from dozens of countries around the world to Israel.

I wish you all success in your sporting events, and I hope that you take advantage of being here to learn more about Israel and get to know our wonderful country.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel

This spectacular world-embracing sports celebration, also known as the “Jewish Olympics,” is the greatest meeting point of world Jewry, and a joyous display of sport at its best. It is a Jewish-Zionist event of huge proportions and significance, expressing the solidarity of the Diaspora with the State of Israel, and with the difficult challenges it faces.

The members of the six confederations of the Maccabi movement – including Maccabi Israel – who organize these impressive Games have worked with dedication for decades, placing special emphasis on the education of our youth, on drawing them closer to their Judaism, to Zionism and to the State of Israel.

Many of the athletes who have come here over the years to participate in the Games have returned as new immigrants, and made Israel their home. They, and some of their children as well, are participating in the Maccabiah today as members of the Israeli delegation. Leaders of the Maccabi World Union tend to build second homes in Israel, thereby binding their fates to ours.

The Ministry of Culture and Sports worked with the intention of hosting the 2013 19th Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem, to reinforce its position as the united, eternal capital of Israel and the Jewish people. Exposing the athletes to the city may encourage their Aliya to Israel. Of course, holding major Maccabiah events in Jerusalem will also make an economic contribution to the city and its residents. I believe that this is an important step in turning Jerusalem into a major city for hosting additional international sporting events in the future.

Just the thought that, in 1932, in the first Maccabiah Games, about 400 athletes from 18 countries participated, and that this year, approximately 9,000 Jewish athletes from 72 countries will take part, awakens great national pride and joy – and optimistic curiosity about future Maccabiah Games.

For all this and more, I would like to thank the heads of the Maccabiah, and the many organizers and volunteers who have contributed to its success.

In addition, to the athletes and their support staffs – my very best wishes to you all!

Limor Livnat, Minister of Culture and Sports

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